Department of Infrastructure must reject cherry-picking by private sector bus operators

Unite Conference 21Application by Hannon Coach targets most lucrative bus route in Northern Ireland

License application from private sector will undermine cross-subsidisation model

May 17th: Unite the union’s deputy Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock, called on the Department of Infrastructure to reject an application from County Antrim-based private sector Hannon Coach for a license to operate an express service between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry:

“The application made by Hannon coach is for an express service operating directly between Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. They seek to base their service in the Europa bus centre, Belfast and Foyle Street station in Derry/Londonderry and compete directly with Translink’s Goldliner service operating from these publicly-funded transport hubs.

“This service generates the greatest economic returns of any bus service operated by Translink. In their efforts to cherry-pick this lucrative run, Hannon coaches are posing a direct threat to the integrity of Northern Ireland’s public transport system.

“Contrary to private sector who are solely focussed on profit, Translink’s business model allows the cross-subsidisation of uneconomic routes by those routes which generate a surplus. Fifteen percent of routes, principally the Goldliner express services, subsidise the eighty-five percent which operate at a loss.

“If private sector operators are successful in their plans to target routes which are income-generating, the resulting revenue reduction will force the discontinuation of dozens of non-profit making routes which are vital to rural and deprived communities and those facing isolation.

“Opening the door to privateers who seek profit will result in the same devastation of bus services as has been experienced in the Republic of Ireland in recent years; where the loss of profit-making routes has resulted in the near bankruptcy of Bus Éireann and the loss of dozens of routes.

“Coming only days after Belfast City Council publicly supporting the extension of taxi access to bus lanes in Belfast, this is the second major threat posed by the private sector to our integrated public transport system in a week.

“The Department of Infrastructure must reject this application and uphold the policies of the Northern Ireland Executive which sought to safeguard our public transport sector”, Mr Pollock finished.

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